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Ronan student wins 2nd in state geography bee

RONAN — Eighth-grader Erich Trickel has been a lot of places, a fact that may have contributed to his second-place finish at the state geography bee earlier this month.

Erich’s first overseas trip was at age 2, when parents Thomas Trickel and Stacey Sherwin took him along on a bicycle tour of Scotland. And when Erich was in sixth grade, the family bicycled around Europe for 10 months, toting Erich’s schoolbooks along so he could study.

While his travels may have given him a leg up on the competition, Erich said most of the questions at the state bee were about Montana.

“There were only one or two questions about world geography,” Erich said.

To be eligible for the Montana National Geographic Bee, held April 9 in Billings, Erich had to win the Ronan Middle School geography bee. Then he aced a test to qualify for the state bee.

“It was really easy to pass,” he said of the multiple-choice exam.

It wasn’t so easy to survive eight rounds of geography questions, but Erich did. 

As the day wore on at the Montana State University Billings’ Petro Theatre, Erich watched as 90 other Montana middle school students were eliminated on wrong answers. Some rounds were live, like a spelling bee, and in others, all the contestants wrote answers to the same question. Eventually, Erich was one of only three contestants left, and that’s when the pressure really turned on, he said. At first, he was just excited.

“I thought, ‘Wow, I’m top three!’”

Then he missed a question.

“In the finals, I got really nervous after I got my first one wrong,” Erich said. “The other kid was really smart.”

The other kid was Erik Ellis, a homeschooler from Lockwood who won for correctly answering the question, “The countries of Montenegro, Macedonia and Croatia are all located on what peninsula?”

(It’s the Balkan Peninsula.)

Ellis will travel to Washington, D.C., to compete against 52 other fourth through eighth-graders in the National Geographic Bee, sponsored by the National Geographic Society, Plum Creek and Google Inc., on May 25 and 26. 

For second place, Erich won a $75 check, an atlas, a book bag, a shirt and “big applause from his parents,” mom Stacey  said.

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